How to share credit and praise yourself… reflecting on the value of (deserved) recognition

Recently I have been spending a lot of time writing references, quotes and feedback for colleagues. And I found it easy to talk about their achievements, to praise their outstanding qualities and to describe how they made a difference. It’s easy to do when it’s for someone amazing, it’s easy to do when it’s not yourself you’re writing or talking about, I find.

But then I read something others or I write about ourselves, about our own achievements and what we have made happen and the tone is completely different. There are whole sentences of qualifying statements, there are plenty of “I feel that…” and “I may argue that…” to soften the tone. There are references to other people and their work, acknowledgements of contributions and so forth. Whether it’s for personal or professional reasons, plenty of us struggle to find a way to give ourselves the credit we deserve (self-promoting egomaniacs need not read on…) . And whilst I obviously do not advocate taking credit if you don’t deserve it, it is important to be able to accurately recognise the importance of your own work and its impact on order to develop more mature, reflective professional practice.

In my experience that’s not a gendered phenomenon, and can definitely apply to high achieving individuals as well. Plenty of brilliant people find it hard to accept praise, argue their own cause or believe in their achievements.

Since I was awarded CMALT, I keep writing updates to my portfolio and as part of that process (and beyond it) I am trying to improve how I apply this in my own practice and I have come up with a couple of rules for myself:

Acknowledge contributions: in my case nearly everything is a shared undertaking. So I start by giving credit to my collaborators, to everyone’s who has contributed and say thank you.

Mention my own role: once I have acknowledged what others have done, I also describe my own work, what I made happen, what I achieved.

Reflect on impact: whether it is good or bad, I reflect on the difference what we or I did has made. It’s a useful opportunity to ask for feedback, to acknowledge lessons learnt, to bring achievements into perspective.

Accept praise: genuine praise can be hard to accept, particularly from people whose opinion you value. Some people love being applauded, others don’t feel they deserve the credit. Accepting praise is a skill like any other and I find it is important to remember that sometimes others can see more clearly when we deserve it. If they make the effort to bestow upon you, accept it.

Hopefully this approach will help me find the right balance between sharing credit, celebrating what I do well and getting and giving others the professional recognition we deserve.

Better, faster, stronger… why I want to avoid following my digital shadow unquestioningly

This time of year I come across a lot of statistics, from national to organisational or even personal. Most read articles, number of books read, fastest running times in the last year, furthest travelled, most often cited… and that is not even mentioning the academic insights or administrative dashboards that surround you in Learning Technology. No, there is no limit to how many quantifiable insights or measurable achievements work and life can be expressed as, particularly online.

Which is why, when I acquainted myself with my ‘digital shadow‘  recently and put it through a ‘digital detox plan’ I felt like the prompts I was getting online, even the well intentioned ones, led me in the wrong direction. From tracking activities to following feeds, this time of year is dominated by what feels like a race to improve, to do more, better… faster… stronger!

I am not one for new year resolutions, but I think this year I may break with this tradition and resolve not to be seduced by the dashboards, graphs, league tables and charts. This drive to increase, to ensure trends point upwards, is not necessarily where I want to be heading.

Instead of being prompted by the next badge I can earn if I take a few more steps or the citations I may gain if I publish one more article, I’m going to ask myself “why?” first.

If I don’t have a strong reason for doing something, I am going to save my energy for other things. Saying no is a healthy habit I do my best to cultivate and making sure I don’t commit to anything without a good reason should help with that.

I found myself using very few of the hints and tips that the data detox plan suggested. The shadows I cast online are more or less what I expected, manage and largely try to control already. Obsessively updating privacy settings, even the most laborious ones, is probably a good foundation for this kind of process and I am fortunate that I have been doing that for years. Unlike many other professionals I know, I don’t delete old posts from most networks, but I try and ‘clean’ what remains as far as I care to. I am sure I could do better in this respect, but at least I have thought about what I am not doing.

In order to avoid following my online shadow and the myriad of ways in which all kinds of measurements are trying to encourage me to improve, do more etc, my resolution is to take a step back, and start with why.

  • If I track something, does it serve my purpose?
  • Do I need to quantify what I am doing in order to achieve my aims?
  • Do I need to work harder (better, faster, stronger…) to achieve my aims?
  • Even if I can measure it, why am I?

In Anthropology there is an interesting discourse on different cultural understandings of numbers, or the concept of numbers. How we arrive at an understanding of numbers and their values, how this is shared across different cultures and periods in history and so forth. One idea that you come across again and again is that our sense of self, of being an individual, is fundamental to our understanding of ‘oneness’, of there being one thing different from others and that we start counting at one. We take our understanding of being a human being as a starting point for making sense of the world.

My online shadows, particularly if I can track or analyse the traces they, I, leave, can make me feel that my sense of self is becoming more distributed. Having too many opportunities to focus on different things, too many different goals to achieve or milestones to hit can distribute or lessen my sense of why I am doing something, of what is actually important. So this is the direction in which I intend to develop my own critical literacy and skills, this is what I hope my new year resolution will help me achieve – to not follow all the different directions into why my shadows get pulled online without thought or question.

The rise of the robots and the power of shared values (2017: part 2)

This is part 2 of my look back at my year in Learning Technology in 2017 (read part 1).

The rise of the robots and the power of shared values

Another story that has shaped my work this year is the ‘rise of the robots’ with headlines once again prophesying a future where every job is under threat and where, in education in particular, robots will soon replace teachers and lecturers all together. From gleefully pronouncing the ‘uberfication’ of education to examining the potential efficiencies that can be gained by an automated system for delivering learning and accreditation, this past year has had it all. And many eloquent writers and researchers have dedicated their efforts to examining what is actually happening and what impact it may have.

In my previous post I wrote about how we can make use of the ubiquity of ‘digital’ to raise awareness of Learning Technology and the work we do. I argued for the need to define clearly what we mean when we talk about all things ‘digital’. When it comes to talking about intelligent or learning machines (or indeed teaching machines), language is even more important.

When we talk about robots coming to take our jobs what we are really talking about is human agency, human decision making to replace human workers with machines. Just because we may be able to make machines that are ever more sophisticated doesn’t necessarily mean that the ‘rise of the robots’ is inevitable. Those in power have choice. We have choice.

By talking about machines like human beings we transfer to them a sense of being similar to our own. We talk about how they learn, how they feel or what they need. As an Anthropologist I specialised in the study of Material and Visual Culture, more specifically the relationship we have as human beings to objects, and so I have a particular interest in this area. I know that our sense of who and what we are is shaped by how we perceive the world, our senses, and that even understanding another person’s view of the world can be a challenge, particularly if they have a different cultural background.

Thus, when I listen to conference presentations or vendor pitches evangelising about the next generation of caring machines, of robots who have empathy, who will provide care for our elderly or teach our children, it makes me pause.

It makes me pause because I think it’s important that we acknowledge our agency in the evolution of machines. It makes me pause because being human is more different from being a machine than the way we talk about it seems to imply.

Our relation with technology

Much of what I work on builds on decades years of research exploring how technology can be used effectively for learning, teaching and assessment. Learning Technology, by definition, advocates the use of technology in education even if it does so critically. Every part of our lives, and increasingly the lives of the majority of the human population, is permeated by digital technologies and our education and training systems reflect this.

In my last post I argued what we need to focus on is how we can best use technology to achieve our aims for learning, teaching and assessment. The next step is to consider what values we share that define our aims and what part, if any, machines play in that.

Over a year ago, when ALT set out to create a new strategy, we started on a journey that has given me a new insight into the power of values. My previous experience of setting out strategic aims was that usually one or two individuals end up writing such documents and few people ever read them. Instead we ended up on a journey through a collaborative, consultative process that resulted in articulating strong strategic aims and shared values that better communicate what we do, why and how. It was an empowering experience for everyone involved that has had significant impact not only for our organisation, but far beyond as I have openly shared not just the end result but also the process that got us there with other organisations including UCISA and the YMCA and at events like OER17, ILTA’s annual conference and Mozfest.

From supporting the campaign for right copyright to finding a new Open Access publishing arrangements for ALT’s journal, Research in Learning Technology, joining the Creative Commons Open Education platform, much of what I do day to day is all about putting our values into practice and advocating for what we care about as a community. I make sure that the values we have inform our aims and use that as a basis for operational decisions.

From values to action

One of the highlights of my year, ALT’s Annual Conference, provides an international stage on which you can see the power of the values we share in practice. Not only in the academic programme, but in the way the event is organised and how participants engage with it. For example, open elections in which every Member of ALT can vote each year result in three new Trustees joining ALT’s Central Executive and we welcome them at the AGM that is open to all to attend and live streamed. Like the strategy, ALT’s Annual Report is written by Members for Members and gives a clear account of finances, governance and achievements. Making the effort to issue open calls for getting involved in various activities, from conferences to publications, and ensuring there is regular turnover and transparency helps engage hundreds of professionals each year. It also ensures power and decision making is distributed throughout the community and that is really important to me.

Elizabeth Charles as a newly election Trustees of ALT

As well as good governance, I help recognise and celebrate the achievements of outstanding peers within our community, through for example supporting the Honorary Life Membership and the international Learning Technologist of the Year Awards. Members from across sectors and with different areas of expertise make up the selection panels I support and we actively promote diversity throughout the process. Each year winners reflect the the range of achievements in Learning Technology and showcase the impact of the work of individuals and teams from our community around the globe. It’s inspiring to see what can be achieved often against all the odds.

Josie Fraser receives her Honorary Life Membership of ALT (with Martin Weller and myself)
Celebrating the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards 2017

Whilst the Annual Conference may be the biggest stage on which we recognise professional achievements, there’s much happening throughout the year that recognises and rewards Learning Technologists, like the recent CMALT celebration I took part in (cake and all).

Newly minted CMALT Holders at the University of Edinburgh (image with kind permission from Susan Greig)

Whether in person or online, what’s important about these kinds of celebrations is that they give expression to the value placed in professional practice, in valuing people. And what individuals do to play a part in this does matter. It makes a difference to colleagues, staff, managers. How we work together, how we support each other, how we talk about, relate to and use technology matters. As a Learning Technologist in a leadership position I leverage my position to purposefully set an example that reflect my values.

Taking personal responsibility to put values into action makes change happen. And that applies to the decisions we take about our relationship to robots, to machines, just the same. Coming back to the the rise of the robots, it’s not inevitable that much of what we currently do will be done by machines in the future. I argued for the difference individuals can make to achieving equality through openness in Learning Technology when I spoke at ILTA’s Annual Conference in June. Now, I hope that just as the fight for equality continues, our efforts to form an equitable relationship with machines and technology (in education) will provide a balancing weight to technological determinism.

Recent posts by me on values

Thanks, again

I take a collegiate, collaborative approach to leadership and my work in general. This is particularly true of some of the examples I mention in this post. I am fortunate to have so many people to work, think and make things with. As you’re reading this you are likely to be one of those people, and I’d like to say thank you. You made all the difference to this year for me.

The ‘digital’ Trojan Horse and the rise of Learning Technologists (2017: part 1)

Snapshots from 2017

With the end of the year around the corner, I’m adding my contribution to the many excellent reviews and reports reflecting on Learning Technology in 2017. I work at the intersection of policy, research and practice, focusing not on technology as such, but on the professionals, the human dimension of technology in education. As such, it’s been an interesting year as the relationship between people and machines evolves. I hope that there will be three posts in this series, starting with this on on…

The ‘digital’ Trojan Horse and the rise of Learning Technologists

This year ‘digital’ was everywhere, specially in education. In the UK Matthew Hancock MP became the Digital Minister (incidentally, it looks like equality still has a way to go when it comes to ‘new paradigm’ Ministers in the G7), I was involved in a UK-wide open course to Develop Digital Skills led by Diana Laurillard and Neil Morris, we read much about the digital skills gap, there were a number of digital policy developments (UK Digital Strategy, Digital Skills and Inclusion Policy, Digital Skills Partnership to name but a few) and everyone from High Street banks to executive training providers is offering to train and educate… everyone in ‘digital’ including teachers.

In education the term has become shorthand for anything to do with using or being influenced by technology, added to existing terms to make new meanings, for example digital education, digital leadership, digital teachers and digital degrees. Beyond education we operate in a digital economy and try to engage with digital democracy. We leave digital footprints, manage digital identities and sign up for digital detox. Digital is a term that has left its clearly defined roots so far behind that it is challenging to unpack its meaning even when there is a clear context – and most of the time it is a convenient way for the ill informed to describe something perceived as new or disrupted or innovative without being specific about what’s actually involved.

Many times this year (for example taking part in the Department for Education’s edtech stakeholder group alongside colleagues from the Learning and Work Institute, the Ufi Trust, Nesta or Naace, in conversation with industry leaders like Panopto’s CEO Eric Burns or working with Aula’s CEO Anders Krohn on a guide to working with edtech start ups, writing about skills development and accreditation on the Efficiency Exchange or talking about FELTAG and workforce development or discussing professionalisation at Online Educa) I have found that the term doesn’t help when discussing learning, teaching or assessment with technology. That’s because it encompasses infrastructure and hardware just as much as having basic digital literacy and goes on to include learning design, purchasing decisions and strategic planning or governance of technology. Digital can mean many things to many people. Deciding how to ‘fix’ problems or address challenges requires more definition to begin with.

From Mozfest 2017: http://marendeepwell.com/cpd/talking-peer-based-accreditation-mozfest/

Understanding professional practice

I try to unpack what we mean when we talk about digital in education, for example in the context of skills needed in a professional context: whether we mean basic digital literacy that everyone needs to use technology effectively, or the specific skills required to support the use of technology in the classroom informed by pedagogic principles and subject-specific requirements. Or whether we are talking about a professional who takes decisions about which technology to use or buy, how to implement it, how to support the use of it for staff and learners alike. Or indeed whether we are talking about senior professionals who need to take effective strategic decisions about technology, associated risks and how to make intelligent use of it for their organisation.

The vagueness of the term and how it is used can be problematic because it leaves much open to interpretation and doesn’t push us to define and agree on what we actually mean. The language we use when we formulate national policies, when we set institutional strategies, when we define personal responsibilities matters. It shapes our understanding of the world and our part in it. In Learning Technology the language we use helps us understand how professional practice is changing and critically reflect on it.

And yet I find that the ubiquity of the term digital is extremely helpful in many ways. It builds a bridge between Learning Technology and wider social, political and economic developments. It is easy to use and less of a mouthful than other terms like technology enhanced learning. It is used widely across sectors and nations. It feels contemporary, modern, new. And that is attractive to many people.

Like MOOC before it, the term digital helps raise awareness of technology being used for learning, teaching and assessment. We can use it to foster a broader, critical discourse. It can be our Trojan Horse, to open gates in the minds of individuals and institutions who have their heads buried in the sand. We can use its ubiquity to help illustrate the scale of the challenges we are facing and how we might meet them not only in education, but the workplace and beyond. Often having a digital strategy or a post with digital in the job title can be a useful first step to starting a conversation about more complex issues.

The rise of Learning Technologists

What gives me hope in this ‘digital age’, is that there are now more professionals working in all different contexts and sectors who play a part in shaping how technology is used for learning, teaching and assessment.

With over 3000 Members for the first time in its 25 year history and Members Groups all across the UK, ALT is a good example of how this professional community is growing. More and more roles in education now have a Learning Technology component and we see ever more senior roles demand such expertise also. On the one hand I still meet too many people who are looking for a magic box they can buy, plug in and which has a little green LED light that blinks and assures them that their organisation is now ready for ‘digital’. One the other hand more and more institutions invest in their people and create specialist roles to make effective use of Learning Technology.

Image from the ALT Annual Strategy 2017-2020. Images created by @BryanMMathers CC-BY-SA ALT

In many cases these professionals aren’t called Learning Technologists and instead have a whole variety of job titles. They may be based anywhere from the library to the IT department or their own department. In some cases they might be on their own, or work across all areas of their organisation. Or they might work independently as a consultant, trainer or manager. From schools, to colleges, private providers and universities, everyone needs more and more know-how in Learning Technology. We have seen a rise in the demand not only for training, but accreditation and professional development from all sectors. Projects like expanding ALT’s accreditation scheme and mapping the CMALT framework to other UK and international standards are a response to the rise of Learning Technologists. The breadth of professional practice that is showcased in the growing register of accredited CMALT portfolios meanwhile highlights that we now have an understanding of the skills and competencies required for this kind of work that is independent of platforms and tools and that remains relevant as we retrain and adapt to new technologies. My personal experience of gaining professional recognition as a Learning Technologist in a leadership role adds to my understanding of how the profession is evolving.

Yet as we move further into a world, and an education system where everything is ‘digital’, one question I get asked frequently is “How we know if or when we’ve arrived in the future that Learning Technology promised?”.

I discuss this questions again and again with policy makers or leaders, in consultation responses or with other experts for example on Wonkhe (here and here). Over the past 10 years I have worked with people who have thought about this question from many different angles. And we return to it frequently as we compare ourselves to what’s happening in other countries, other industries and at other times throughout history.

“How”, they ask, “can we have made progress when there are primary schools without WiFi, bans on mobile phones or laptops in the classroom, inspection/funding/accreditation bodies whose policies often don’t even mention the words technology or digital?”.  

“How, and when, will we arrive in the vision of learning that the potential that technology has offered for so long?”.

From my perspective the answer is that we have long since arrived. The promised land of Learning Technology has simply turned out to be no less messy, inconsistent or challenging than what we had before. The forces of global capitalism still shape our education systems. “Are things better with technology in education?” is the wrong question to ask in my opinion.

Instead “How can we best use technology to achieve our aims for learning, teaching and assessment?” is a more useful way of thinking about the future.

And we need a diverse, critical and empowered Learning Technology community to help find the answers. I am glad that the work I do for ALT plays a part in making that happen in the UK and beyond.

Recent posts by me on professional practice

Thanks

I take a collegiate, collaborative approach to leadership and my work in general. I am lucky to have so many people to work, think and make things with. As you’re reading this you are likely to be one of those people, and I’d like to say thank you. You made all the difference to this year for me.

Don’t think you are brilliant? Think again…

Certified Member of ALT

… and yes, I am thinking about you 😉

But, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to the beginning and how I came to (nearly) write those words on an assessment form.

As a Certified Member of ALT I act as a peer assessor for portfolios submitted by candidates hoping to gain the accreditation. It’s part of my continuous professional development in Learning Technology and in the most part it is a rewarding, equitable and collegiate activity that I really enjoy.

In recent months I’ve graduated from learning about the assessment process and gaining experience in collaboration with Lead Assessors to becoming a Lead Assessor myself and now that I am doing more assessments I have started to reflect on the professional practice I am seeing through various submissions. It’s interesting to see what others do, what they specialise in and how they reflect on their practice or research. Personally, however, I am often taken aback by how little confidence or sense of achievement is conveyed in the work being presented. So much that should be celebrated can be overlooked or left unacknowledged. So few seem to have the confidence or awareness to recognise their own achievements or even present them as such. In short, I often find myself wishing to convey congratulations or compliments alongside more practical feedback.

And then, there are the blog posts or thoughts of others in my field who seem to find it hard to feel their voice is important, that their perspective is worth listening to and that their work goes beyond the ordinary. Like so many before me I find again and again that those who shout the loudest about their own accomplishments are usually least deserving of our time and attention. Which makes it even more critical that those who need encouragement and support receive it.

I think a peer-based accreditation process like CMALT that has a strong element of self-reflection can help you realise that you’re brilliant (and yes, again, I do mean you…).

Why is that you ask?

Here are three examples:

Firstly, making a long list of all you have done can help you gain a sense of perspective. In Learning Technology we often move on from one project to the next so quickly that we forget to pause and recognise what we’ve achieved and what difference it has made.

Secondly, building a portfolio in a format and manner that you choose, that you can tailor to your preferences and style, can help you build a narrative of your professional development that you take ownership of. It’s not someone else imposing a structure or crediting specific actions – you choose and shape what you present.

Thirdly, reflecting on what you are good at might surprise you, might point you in a different direction than the one you thought you were heading towards. You might realise that you are great at something that you never even realised before. You might be able to see your professional practice in a new light.

You might not have time or the inclination to engage with a scheme like CMALT. But you should make time to reflect and recognise your own strengths and achievements.

Celebrating #AdaLovelaceDay 2017 and promoting equality

Ada laptop sticker

Today we are celebrating #AdaLovelaceDay and for me this is a good reminder to acknowledge all the brilliant women I work with in Learning Technology and beyond. We may have a lot still to achieve when it comes to equality, but there is something we can all do to help achieve it. Earlier this year I talked about how openness can be a tool for Learning Technology professionals to promote equality at the ILTA Annual Conference (slides and transcript).

The closing thought of my talk feels very relevant today:

Days like today give us that opportunity, to reflect on how we, as individuals, as a professional community, can take action to achieve greater equality through openness, to harness technology to do so – and then to go and make a difference.

Re-post #altc: my autumn report to Members as CEO of ALT

Maren Deepwell, Josie Fraser and Martin Weller

You can read all my reports to Members of ALT on the #altc blog by following this link. The blog is always open to new contributors, for full details about how to write for the blog, see the information posted here.

Dear Members

I’m starting this report by looking back briefly at the 2017 Annual Conference which took place in Liverpool in early September. If you haven’t already, I’d like to encourage you to explore the inspiring list of posts and resources shared by participants to get a flavour of this year’s highlights and read posts about the conference by keynote speakers and award winners. Equally recommended reading is ALT’s Annual Report which was approved by Members at the Annual General Meeting and this year contains a new report written jointly by Trustees reporting on progress made delivering ALT’s 2017-2020 strategy. I am proud to see how much progress we have made in the last twelve months.

A personal highlight for me was the Honorary Life Membership awarded to Josie Fraser, a richly deserved honour for an outstanding member of our community. As always, I am grateful that alongside the hard work and time contributed by everyone involved, my colleagues, Martin, Jane, Kristina, Tom and Jane, were recognised for their efforts making it all happen. You can read my personal take on organising the conference on my blog.

The Annual Conference sets the tone for the next few months at ALT and one of the outcomes of this year’s event is a renewed focus on policy, which was reflected in David Kernohan’s Wonkhe article ‘Edtech? It’s all about policy’ and my keynote contribution to the FELTAG 2017 Forum, on workforce development to maximise Learning Technology impact . Also this month, ALT Trustee Lorna Campbell and Ambassador Joe Wilson alongside others took part in the 2nd World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress in Ljubljana, Slovenia, sharing their insights via social media and reporting back to the wider community. This focus on policy across sectors will continue in the run-up to this year’s ALT Annual Survey and the now established Winter Online Conference in December.

The work of ALT is largely led by Members who give up their time to get actively involved and lead ALT’s governance and activities across sectors. It is always important to acknowledge how much Members contribute, but sometimes a special thank you is in order. That is why I’d like to join the Trustees of the Association led by Prof Neil Morris, Chair of the Editorial Board, would now take this opportunity to say a thank you to the Editors of the journal, Lesley Diack, Amanda Jefferies, Peter Reed, Fiona Smart and Gail Wilson. Throughout the unprecedented difficulties with the journal the Editors as a group have played a key part in supporting the journal during this year of transition and their tireless efforts have ensured that we have weathered the transition as well as possible and supporting authors and readers throughout. Having published eight articles since July and processed dozens of new submissions I am glad to say that the journal is now operating fully.

In October we convene ALT’s Operational Committees and the Editorial Board of the journal as we begin the work of the new academic year. More Members are now actively engaged in the work of the Association, taking part not only in our governance, but leading activities and establishing new Members Groups across the UK, most recently in the North East of England.

This year’s Annual Report reflects that alongside our efforts to meet our strategic aims, we must continue to put our values into practice. In addition to what we set out in our strategy, that we value participation, collaboration, openness and independence, we also work to achieve greater equality and diversity in our community of Members and helping us champion this are this year’s winners of the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards.

Leading professionalisation in Learning Technology is about setting standards and recognising achievement on a national scale. It is also an opportunity to shape our professional identity and this year’s conference really brought home to me how powerful an example our Members are setting.

Making it happen… leading a community conference

Where do we go from here

It’s the weekend before the biggest face to face event that the organisation I lead runs each year. It’s our Annual Conference and between an inbox that doesn’t sleep, aching feet and a planning spreadsheet with a row for every detail my excitement is mounting. This is the week of the year when both online and in person our community comes together.

My job as CEO, at least on paper, is to carry the responsibility. To manage risk, to keep oversight, to make decisions and provide leadership. But alongside this, after nearly a decade of Annual Conferences, I have also developed my particular approach to leading the way through this busiest and buzziest of weeks in my calendar. This year again I have tried to improve what I do, so in this post I want to share with you some of what I do to get ready #altc:

Everyone has a voice, so listen: one of the most valuable aspects of the conference for me is to hear all the different voices from across sectors, different institutions and professional practice. Whether it’s an apprentice just starting out in Learning Technology whom I sit next to during dinner or an Awards winner from a prestigious institution, I try to listen.  It’s critical discussion of current issues that I am most interested in – finding out how we are approaching some of the difficult questions around ethics, consent, equity, skills or policy.

Only 400-500 people can participate in person, so this year I have worked directly with supporters to open up the conversation further, for example via podcasts, radio broadcasts, virtual participation, articles and tweet chats in which speakers, organisers and participants can all get involved openly.

Make time to enjoy meeting people: the most common way in which my conference conversations start is by someone saying “I know you must be busy”… or “I know you don’t have time…” – and sometimes that is true. If there is a problem I need to deal with, then you will have to excuse me. But that’s not usually the case and I try to make myself as visibly available as I can and meet as many people as I can, both in person and virtually (and you can always tweet @marendeepwell and say hello). I serve the Association and its growing membership of over 2500 individuals as well as the interests for the wider community we work with. I am here to meet you, find out how your first presentation went, what product you are pitching or what research you are looking for. During most breaks you will find me at ALT’s stand so look out for me and say hello. On the last day of the conference you can also meet me virtually via VConnecting.

Conferences are not about perfect: together with a regular army of volunteers, Co-Chairs, Trustees and a small team of colleagues I get to host hundreds of people next week and we have worked for 18 months to try make everyone have the best possible experience – but conferences are not about perfect and more likely than not I will be the recipient of any grumbles or complaints so that we can deal with them and improve. There’s always small things that can go wrong and so I try and pick a handful of things for each day I really focus on and if they go right, then the day is a success. I use the same approach when I attend an event as a participant, and it works well for me. Meet 2-3 specific people, get to a few particular sessions, ask a question – have some fun… and you have had a good day. I have read many of the blog posts others write about preparing their presentations, planning their programmes and getting ready to network, share and connect. If you are contributing, good luck to you and I hope it is a rewarding experience.

‘C’ stands for Community: for me, our conference is all about community, a community of shared values. Yes, there is a rigorous peer review process, an emphasis on research and academic knowledge sharing, networking and showcasing innovation. But with 24 years of leading professionalisation in Learning Technology behind us we also get to influence and shape our part of education. We help set the tone, we colour the future, we point the way to what Learning Technology is through research, practice and policy – but also through how we put the values we share into practice. Values of openness, independence, collaboration, participation and, at the heart of it all, the Members of our Association.

Earlier this year when we launched our new strategy, Bryan Mathers helped us articulate these values afresh through visual thinkery, and for me the conference is the biggest opportunity I have to put those values into practice. So while you may not see me wearing actual ALT trainers (although I may have some of those…), I will be doing my best to walk on the path that our vision set out. And I am really, really looking forward to it.

P.S. If you’d like to read what I have written about in the run up to the conference, including recent articles on skills development, accreditation and professionalisation, see my previous post.

Re-post #altc: my latest report to Members as CEO of ALT

Images from ALT Annual Conference

You can read all my reports to Members of ALT on the #altc blog by following this link. The blog is always open to new contributors and at the moment there is also a special call for new editors to join the Editorial Team.

“Dear Members

I’d like to start this report with a warm welcome to everyone who’s joined ALT this year. It’s great to see the number of Learning Technology professionals growing across sectors and we are pleased to have you on board!

As a Member we’d like to encourage you to get involved and we are currently inviting expressions of interest for a range of different roles, including our governance, events, publications, professional development and accreditation. Following the launch of our strategy for 2017-2020 earlier this year, there are a lot of new initiatives getting underway as well, so whether you have just joined or are an established member there is, I hope, a rewarding way for you to engage.

Further particulars are available on ALT’s website and you can also to sign up specifically for Pathways to CMALT, expanding the accreditation framework.

I’d also like to use this opportunity to give particular thanks to Members who edit and run this blog. Since its transition from newsletter to blog the readership and output has increased significantly and from event reports to case studies and reports the blog is going from strength to strength. I invite you to meet the editors and consider joining the editorial team or to write for the blog.

Another important development in the last month has been around ALT’s journal, Research in Learning Technology, and our new partnership with Open Academia.

As a Member you also have the right to vote in the elections run by the Electoral Reform Services which determine who becomes a Trustee of ALT and joins the Central Executive, the committee that governs the Association. Look out for an email with details of who is standing for election and how to vote. The results will be announced at the AGM on 6 September.

As I am writing this we are also preparing for what looks like a busy Annual Conference in Liverpool in September. The largest of our three annual events, with the OER Conference in April and the online conference in December, has received a record number of submissions this year, 230 in total, which is the biggest number in five years. Full information, the programme and registration is on the conference platform.

As a staff team we look forward to supporting the conference this year and since my last report we have welcomed our new Events Manager, Jane Marsh, who will be running the event this year. We are also pleased to be supporting one of our senior staff, Martin Hawksey, through a period of research leave, and you can read more about what Martin will be doing on his blog.

Together with my colleagues and Trustees I am heartened to see our work make a difference and our community grow despite the significant challenges we are facing as individuals, within institutions and on a national scale. I look forward to meeting many of you in Liverpool and more online as we gather, discuss and critically reflect on the role of Learning Technology in our future – ‘beyond islands of innovation’.”

You can read all my reports to Members of ALT on the #altc blog by following this link.

CPD #cmalt as a springboard into openness and ownership

Water colour drawing of a pool and diving board

Recently there have been a lot of interesting posts on Twitter #cmalt about how compiling a portfolio of your professional practice can be an open process (if you have not come across the #cmalt accreditation scheme, have a look at the ALT website or watch this).

My own portfolio was accredited through CMALT in early 2016 and since then I’ve shared both posts about the process and the portfolio itself. But reading the recent posts made me think afresh about how undertaking CPD like compiling a CMALT portflio can be a springboard into openness and ownership – and some of the considerations I had when deciding on these issues.

Considering others: in the context of a portfolio that describes and reflects on professional practice taking colleagues into consideration is key. Even though the CMALT process requires you to focus on writing in the first person, to reflect on your individual practice, anyone with management responsibilities or who works as part of a team, needs to consider how others are portrayed in what they share. In my case, I asked colleagues for permission if it was necessary to refer to them directly and I chose examples of practice specifically because they were suitable for sharing.

Continuous reflection doesn’t have to be open: one of the key benefits of gaining CMALT for me is that it prompts me to continue my reflections on an ongoing basis as I collect evidence of practice for the update to my portfolio every 3 years. Some of this is work in progress or hastily written, so I don’t share it. I choose what I share, when and with whom and it’s valuable to have safe, closed spaces within my CMALT folders and documents that encourage critical reflection as well as recording achievements. The process of deciding what is open and what is less open in itself is a valuable experience.

Contributing to our understanding of professional practice: as well as sharing my portfolio I have also added it to the sharing initiative run by ALT. It’s not openly accessible to everyone, but only to members or individuals registered for the cmalt scheme. I think this offers the advantage of being able to contribute to a wider picture of what professional practice in Learning Technology looks like as well as helping others find useful examples in their sector, job role or specialist area. It also provides an alternative way of sharing practice instead of putting your portfolio out on the public web.

Taking ownership of what you share: I compiled my portfolio using Google Apps for Education (more info) and I use the same tools now to track my CPD and collect evidence as I go along. Loosing access to portfolios or evidence on institutional systems is a real risk for many and I wanted to keep my content for the long term. Recently, I have decided to take that a step further and started transferring my portfolio onto this site, my own domain (thanks to Reclaim Hosting!).

Some of it is already available now at http://marendeepwell.com/cmalt/  and in the fullness of time it should enable me to take even more ownership of my professional practice and the recognition I gain.